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The Great Maxi-Skirt Debacle of 1972

Me and my maxi-skirt in happier times.

The year was 1972. I was a shy, awkward eighth-grader at Fridley Junior High in a working-class suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It all began innocently enough when my mother sewed maxi-skirts for my sisters and me one winter. Maxi-skirts were skirts that went all the way down to the floor and were high fashion in 1972; all the cool girls wore them.

Even though my mother warned me there would not be enough of the red fabric I picked out for my skirt, I insisted she use it anyway. The skirt turned out to be more of a red corduroy maxi-tube than the full, flowing maxi-skirt pictured on the front of the Simplicity pattern envelope.

Undeterred by the fact that my stride was roughly as long as that of a Geisha’s, I wore my maxi-skirt proudly to school that fateful day. I was shuffling down the hallway in a sea of my baby-boomer classmates, school books clutched to my chest when my friend Karen swept by me and gave me a slap-on-the-back greeting. That little push sent my torso flying forward at a velocity faster than my tightly bound legs could pedal. Factor in the weight of the books and my 80-pound frame and, well, you get the picture . . . an object in motion and all.

When I tell this story to my kids I insert a little lesson about the physics of this experience just to keep it educational. “Notice how ‘Turning Point’ becomes both a scientific statement as well as an understatement in this example,” I say.

My books flew ahead of me as I slid down the hallway on my belly. To the fast-moving current of students rushing up behind me, I was a rock in the rapids. They were stumbling and lurching trying to avoid stepping on me.

All the while, the tube-like geometry of my skirt and lack of traction supplied by my fashionable, but not-so-functional, ballet slippers made it physically impossible for me to stand up. I was flopping like a fish and polishing a nice, shiny clean spot on the dusty floor as my fellow classmates began parting behind me like the Red Sea, casting horrified backward-glances in my direction. My popularity, already weak and sickly, suffered its last agonizing death-throes right there in the hallway.

Enough humiliation you say? Oh, contraire my friends, this was just beginning. In the midst of my flailing efforts to stand in this sea of inhumanity, I felt two hands under my arms lifting me up from behind.  Guess what? Yes, it was the guy I had a huge crush on. (My compliments to God and his impeccable comic timing.) He was a big, handsome, popular, red-headed football player who smelled like Brut cologne, or maybe it was HI KARATE.  He was the lead actor in my romantic adolescent daydreams, all of them set to a score of David Cassidy ballads. (Heavy sigh.) What? I’ve already admitted I was not cool. Full disclosure.

After he placed me in an upright position, he steadied me for a moment to make sure I wouldn’t tip over again. He then handed me my books, gave me a quick nod with only the tiniest smirk passing over his dreamy lips before he quickly moved on. I scurried, face flushed red as my skirt, into the nearest girls’ restroom and tried to figure out a way to flush myself down the toilet.

Little did I know when I was experiencing my most humiliating middle school moment back in 1972, this story would become a favorite of my middle school daughter all these years later. She loves to laugh with me every single time I tell it, which she requests I do often. I like to think I am teaching her that seeing the humor in humiliation is all about not taking yourself too seriously, or some other equally noble life lesson.  More likely she just loves a good laugh at my expense.

The moral of this story, you ask? I have no idea, but my daughter seems to find comfort in it during her own awkward middle school years, and that’s enough for me. Fortunately for her, I’ve got plenty more stories I’m saving for her high school years!


There is so much divinity in the everyday.

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. I like (and appreciate) the full body diagram!

    January 7, 2011
    • Nancy #

      Another great story! I had a red maxi skirt too—one I made in Home Ec about the same time. Ugh. I love your illustration too.

      January 7, 2011
      • Oh Nancy, thanks for reminding me of Home Ec! I crocheted a poncho where I forgot to increase my loops as I progressed—it turned out to be a sausage casing that I had to model for the class! Not fun. But it was slightly better than the culottes I made out of stiff pink denim the project before. Slightly chaffing to both my inner thighs and my self esteem!

        January 9, 2011
  2. Your photos remind me of my Mom!

    I bet she had a maxi-skirt too. Oh, the things we do for fashion!

    January 7, 2011
  3. Ginny Bergerson #

    Relating here. I tell the one about the multiple-colored squared wool pants and matching dolman sleeve jacket with knit waistband and cuffs I sewed. Yes, it is true I wore it Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s for the entire winter. Along with it- the shag carpet purse I thought was so cool. Of course I learned how to rug hook and thought everything should be made of yarn…

    January 7, 2011
    • Oh Ginny. I so remember that outfit of yours! My sympathies. 😉

      January 8, 2011
  4. Elizabeth #

    Oh! I love my friend Lori. We met in high school and if I had been near…we could have looked each other in the eye and laughed until we cried! Niecy would have helped offer a giggle or two. I have similar stories from later years, when you truly were the coolest, Lor. I was geeky and tall, all the boys came to my armpit. Lovely! We must have a slumber party soon so we can each share a tale of woe and puberty misery! I’ll host it!!! Love you so…

    January 7, 2011
    • The more personal the story, the more universal is certainly true here! We’ve all got them. Love back at you dear friend.

      January 8, 2011
  5. Elizabeth #

    By the way, I wrote to Davy Jones of the Monkees. He never wrote back! (I’m so glad we were never after the same man…)

    January 7, 2011
    • Bob #

      I never knew you had a crush on him. He must have liked you too. He wasn’t usually that nice to people.

      January 8, 2011

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